January 2011

Dance and Academia: Moving the Boundaries


‘Dance in Body, Dance in Mind’


– Dancin’ Oxford 2011 –

A series of events bringing together dance practitioners and academics to explore a range of themes through discussion and practice.

All welcome.

MONDAY 21st FEBRUARY, 6-8pm, Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, 66 St Giles

Sue Ash ‘Fit’ women: aesthetic movement or eugenic exercise in the private gardens and public parks of early twentieth century Britain?

Catherine Charlwood ‘Agony nearest Delight’: When and where dance allows us to hurt beautifully

MONDAY 28th FEBRUARY, 6-8pm, Top Room at Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont St

Christopher Engdahl Choreographic Authorship and Digital Media

(Talk and interactive session)

MONDAY 7th MARCH, 6.30-8.30pm, Top Room at Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont St

Sarah Whatley Watching Live and Virtual dance: negotiating the relationship between embodiment and technology

Vicky Fisher Dance Imagery: the Influence of the Mind on the Body (interactive session)

SATURDAY 19th MARCH, 11.30-5.30pm, MBI Al Jaber Building, Corpus Christi College, Merton St

Karen Wood, Dee Reynolds and Rosie Kay (Watching Dance Project) Performer-Spectator Relations in Dance

Sue Smith Dancing in the Dark: A Hierarchy of the senses in dance performance?

Ruth Pethybridge Relating to Age: Performances of singularity in cross-generational performances

Gill Williams Dance and Disability: Moving the Boundaries

Debbie Lee-Anthony Sharing the dance through the lived body and On Middle Ground (performance)

Admission: Monday evenings suggested donation of £2

Saturday 19th March: £10 or £7 concessions (includes light lunch), available from Tickets Oxford www.ticketsoxford.com or 01865 305 305.

For more information please visit www.dancinoxford.co.uk

Today finally marks the general release of the much hyped thriller Black Swan, coming to Oxford’s very own Picture House on Walton Street:

“Inspired by Tchaikovsky’s legendary Swan Lake, the film stars Natalie Portman giving the performance of her career as Nina, a New York ballerina who is picked by company director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) to play both the White Swan and her lustful twin, the Black Swan, in a new production of the ballet.

This fateful decision sets the vulnerable dancer on a collision course with her own fragile psyche, embodied, refracted and reflected in the figure of fellow dancer Lily (Mila Kunis), whose sexual free-spiritedness sharply contrasts with Nina’s own reticent nature.  Add to that a domineering mother (Barbara Hershey) and a faded star (Winona Ryder), and the stage is set for an explosive psychological thrill ride.”

Portman has already picked up a Golden Globe for her performance.  However one wonders how convincing an actress with limited ballet preparation, however intense, can possibly be in portraying a dancer capable of one of the iconic roles of classical ballet.  Ballet shapes and informs the whole body, there is no hiding or trickery that can disguise a lack of understanding or expertise.  The Red Shoes after all starred the beautiful Moira Shearer, able to convince not only through her acting but through dancing at the highest level. Was it really not possible to find a current major ballet artist with the acting skills to undertake this role, or did the producers simply play it safe for financial reasons with a film box office name?

Critics from other disciplines have been warm in admiration; it would be good to hear the verdict of those with some knowledge of dance.  Apart from scepticism as to the cast’s ability to embody dancers, from reading the blurb I steel myself to face a barage of hysteria about the world of ballet and behaviour of those within it.  I hope that these preconceptions are confounded when I come to see the film.  Looking forward to hearing what others in the dance world make of it, please post your impressions in response to this…